The Los Angeles Lakers star made the comments on Friday’s broadcast of his HBO discussion show, The Shop, the Guardian reported.
“In the NFL they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James said. “And it’s like, ‘This is my team. You do what I tell y’all to do. Or we get rid of y’all.’”
James’s comments come after a stormy few seasons in the NFL. Two players, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, have filed grievances against the league and its teams’ owners alleging they colluded to keep them out of football due to their stance on social issues. Both men knelt during the national anthem to highlight racial injustice in the US. Although Reid has now found a team, the Carolina Panthers, this week he said he had been randomly drug tested by the league six times in 11 weeks. Yahoo Sports calculated the chances of that happening were 0.17 percent.
The NBA, on the other hand, has been praised for being much more progressive on social issues.
“The difference between the NBA and the NFL, the NBA is what we believe he [a player] can be. The potential,” James said.
“In the NFL, it’s like what can you do for me this Sunday, or this Monday or this Thursday, and if you ain’t it, we moving on.”
James highlighted the work of the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, in making the league a welcoming environment for players. “I’m so appreciative in our league of our commissioner,” James said. “He doesn’t mind us having ... a real feeling and to be able to express that. It doesn’t even matter if Adam agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out. As long as we are doing it in a very educational, nonviolent way, then he’s absolutely OK with it.”
James has been quick to speak up about social issues in the past. He is a long-time critic of the US president, Donald Trump.
In February, James explained why he was critical of the president, “While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way.”